Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version

Fall 2009


Published in Great Plains Research 19.2 (Fall 2009): 244


Copyright 2009 Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Used by permission.


Sharing our Stories of Survival is a heartbreaking and compelling presentation of Native women surviving violence. The text is a timely collaborative offering of essays and poetry, given the international attention on human rights and violence plaguing Indigenous women. Its appeal, as Tillie Blackbear says, is the spirit in which the book was written, with “survivors at the center of the analysis.” There are a multitude of writers, yet it is the voices of Native women and survivors that compel us to consider the circumstances out of which the volume arose and for what purpose is was meant. Native women are experiencing the highest incidences of violence of any ethnic women in the United States, and their safety is mediated by systems that have not historically protected them.

The volume is organized in four sections: an introduction and overview; stories of survival from survivors; advocacy; and practice within tribal legal systems. Included in the collection is a chapter contextualizing advocates as perhaps the heart of the current response and the primary source of support and social change for victims. “There is a sense of futility and exasperation among Native women,” Brenda Hill claims, “because we continue to suffer the highest rates of domestic violence, sexual assault, and murder in America, even given the resources of VAWA (Violence Against Women Act).” Most Americans take for granted the basic human right of personal safety. Hill wants us to realize that personal safety for Native women is critical, and the ability of criminal justice systems, “especially underfunded tribal systems, to hold offenders accountable, much less make significant changes in their behaviors and attitudes toward women,” is simply not occurring in the manner it needs to. The situation thus “warrants a critical analysis of the assumptions and expectations surrounding the current societal response to violence against women.”